Stepping Into A Writer’s World

In my recent post, A Season for Writing, I wrote about the fact that I’d started a new WIP set in California, and that I could almost feel the sunshine.

And the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that this feeling of place, of inhabiting the world where my characters live, is the way I know that my story has ‘legs.’

I don’t know about you guys, but I get story ideas all the time. Walking down the street, at the airport, in the shower. Some become stories, but others, for now, remain fragments, nothing more than a few sentences.

I’m not a plotter – I don’t sit down and write detailed plot graphs and chapter plans. I tried it once, but my characters didn’t like it and decided to run off in an entirely different direction. I knew then that it wasn’t for me. I’m envious of people who can plan their books that way – though I love the excitement of flying by the seat of my pants when writing a new story, there are moments when I have no idea what will happen next, or whether I can bring things to a speedy conclusion, and a nicely plotted graph would be very helpful. However, when I can ‘see’ my characters and their surroundings clearly, I take it as a signpost that all will be well.

Instead, when I start a new story, I take one of the little fragments – an idea, a couple of characters, a key event – and I start writing. I don’t think about it too much, because if I squeeze the idea too tightly it won’t be able to race forward, dragging me along with it. It’s quite a balancing act, caring just enough that the story knows you’re interested, but not so much it decides to quit, or run off with someone else. (If you’ve read Big Magic you’ll know what I’m talking about). And sometimes it goes nowhere – I don’t get that magic tickle in my stomach and fingers, I’m not thinking about the characters when I’m out walking. But sometimes, a world starts to spring up around me. Scenes and characters appear, almost as though they’ve been waiting for me to shout ‘Action!’, one scene linking into the next. I find myself thinking about the new story world at odd times, little snippets coming to me. And that’s when I know I’m on my way.

And so it is with this new WIP. I’ve been working on it for a little while, up to almost 10K words now, and I confess I did get slightly stuck at one point, but a chat with my critique partner (which will be another blog post) soon got things going again. And now that I can hear the surf, feel the sunshine and see the streets of the (fictional) town where my characters live, I know it’s going to be okay. That the story will unfurl for me. Because that’s how it’s always been. Whether I’m wandering the green woods of Ambeth, the beach Heaven in A Thousand Rooms, or the near-future world of The Last Raven, as long as I know where I am, I can see a way forward.

And maybe that’s how life is, sometimes, too.

How about you? How do you know when a story has ‘legs’? Are you a Planner, or a Pantser, or something in between?


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Finding My Way Back #amwriting

I have a new desk.

For writers, this can be kind of a big deal.

I’m quite pleased with it. It’s a bit smaller than my other desk, which makes my tiny study feel bigger. There’s still room for my bits and pieces; trinket boxes, a set of vintage tins I use for pens, some interesting stones and feathers I’ve collected. However, I’ve had to clear out a load of papers, which is not a bad thing. I’ve found some treasure, like a list my daughter wrote a couple of years ago about her ‘Favourite times’. My favourite entry is ‘Being kept warm.’ Such a simple thing, yet to my small girl it was important enough to put on her list, and a reminder to me not to take such privilege for granted.

I also found a list of agents and publishers to whom I submitted Oak and Mist, when it was just a fledgling manuscript. It was in no way ready to be sent out, but I didn’t realise at the time, so I shoved it from its nest out into the big world. It came back to me thoroughly rejected, of course, although I did get a couple of requests for the full manuscript. It was a learning experience, if nothing else, and I suppose part of the process of being a writer.

There’s a lot to go through, and I’m still not quite finished. But I did discover one other thing, which I was very pleased to find. I found my way back. Back to writing again, to writing for my own pleasure as well as for others. This past year has been good for me – it’s challenged me and taken me out of my comfort zone. However, it’s come to an end and I’m happy to be back in my office once more.

In Stephen King’s On Writing (which I think is one of the best writing craft books I’ve read), he talks about returning to writing after his accident, and how he felt rusty at first, that his ‘tricks’ had deserted him. But he persevered, and soon found his way back to the page. In my own far less illustrious way, I feel the same. A little bit rusty, my writing mojo not quite back yet. But today, as I set up my desk, I felt the beginning. As though I were back on the path again.

And that was a great thing to find.


Oak and Mist, the first book in The Ambeth Chronicles, is on sale for 99c/99p until January 31st! Get your copy here

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

New Year, New Book! Launch Day for Under Stone

What better way to start the new year than with a brand new book? Under Stone, the fourth instalment of my Ambeth Chronicles, is now live on Amazon! Get your copy here.

‘Help will come to you, Alma, you will not be alone.’

Accepting her new powers hasn’t been easy for Alma. Nor has finding out the truth about her father. And she’s still not sure about the prophecy, or about going back to Ambeth. But the Dark are gathering, Denoris on her trail. Deryck hasn’t forgotten about her either… Events past and present converge on a small Welsh town as Alma, and the Dark, choose their path. Who will reach the Cup first?

I’m thrilled to be starting the year with a new title and, for those of you who are new to Ambeth, Oak and Mist, the first book in the series, is 99p/99c to download in the Kindle store, but only until the end of January.

So what are you waiting for? New year, new series – take a journey to Ambeth.

 

The Old Year Ends…

As the year draws to a close, I suppose it’s time to look back and consider how it was. For me, 2017 was a year of mixed blessings and a badly needed kickstart. I’d fallen into something of a rut, so being challenged and thrown out of my comfort zone, as I have been this year, has given me renewed energy for 2018.

In terms of blogging, 2017 was a quiet year for me. I didn’t post nearly as much as I had the year before, nor was I able to spend quite as much time visiting other blogs as I would have liked to. However, I did make it to the Bloggers Bash in London, and caught up in person with many lovely familiar faces, as well as meeting some new ones. I also spent a magical weekend in Scotland with the Silent Eye, discovering that we can be tested in many different ways.

When it came to blog posts a perennial favourite, Stuck Writing Your Author Bio, reigned supreme for the second year in a row, gaining more views than any other. The rest of my top ten consisted mostly of Wednesday Wanders, with Mykonos, Italy, Heidelberg, Stonehenge, Dragonstone and Bath ranking as the most popular destinations. (And my Wanders will be back in 2018, by the way – I haven’t run out of places yet, and have more travels planned). A post about a weekend in Paris with an old friend also made the top ten – looking at that list you wouldn’t think I started blogging about writing!

When it came to writing, this year was a busy one. I finished the first draft of Silver and Black, my vampire novel, as well as the final edit for Under Stone, the fourth Ambeth book. I managed to squeeze in a few short stories as well, and am looking forward to more writing and publishing in the coming year.

But for now the house is tidy, dinner is almost ready to eat and I’m looking forward to seeing in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has visited, read, liked, commented and reblogged – you’re all wonderful. Wishing you joy and a prosperous 2018, wherever you are!

Happy New Year! x

A Coventry Win, And A Guardian Article – Happy Weekend!

If you’ve read my Author Bio, or my About page, you’ll know that I grew up in Coventry, England. My family have deep ties to the City and most of them still live there, so I visit often. When I returned to the UK in 2012, I spent my first six months back in the country living there again, only moving away due to my husband’s work. It’s a place that holds a lot of happy memories for me.

Coventry is also the real-world setting for my Ambeth books. Alma lives on my old street, and the Gate of Oak is in the Memorial Park, a place that has always held magic for me. It is telling that, when I sat down to write my first book, Coventry was the inspiration and starting point. It is a city I still hold close to my heart.

So, when Coventry was named 2021 UK City of Culture this past week, I was thrilled! I tweeted out my congratulations, adding that I thought it a well-deserved win. Less than an hour later, through the strange workings of Twitter, The Guardian newspaper had contacted me. Would I like to write a piece about the city and why I love it, they asked. Would I? I jumped at the chance, even though they needed it done that afternoon and I was at work – there was no way I was missing this opportunity.

I was given 700 words and a short brief – truly, I could have written double that amount – and feel I only touched on the many layers of history and culture the city holds. The article was approved, and is now live on the Guardian site, less than 24 hours after my original tweet. (If you’d like to read it, click here)

And that’s it! A wonderful, and quite unexpected, start to my weekend 🙂 Wishing you all a great weekend wherever you are and, #happywriting.

xx

Autumn Leaves and Winter Work

It’s Sunday evening. The sky is washed with eggshell shades fading to blue, my cheeks still tingling from being outside. The working week awaits… and yet, the working weekend has just finished.

I’m currently deep into the final edit and formatting of Under Stone, book four in my Ambeth series, with a view to publishing very soon. This last push has been accompanied by lining up some associated promotion and deals, so it’s been a very busy time of late (which has made me a not-very-good blogger at the moment).

That being said, you may have also noticed a couple of new things on my blog. One is the mailing list sign-up. If you do sign up, I promise not to inundate you. Rather, I’ll just send through a newsletter once in a while with publishing updates, sneak peeks at upcoming books, the occasional competition and a few other goodies.

The other new thing is a shiny badge proclaming me a member of the 2018 Bloggers Bash Committee. I agreed (was talked into) joining the committee at this year’s Bash, and I’m enjoying being part of the team! Watch this space (and my newsletter) for news about next year’s event.

And now it’s back to formatting once more. The sky is now dark, the nights drawing in early. I don’t mind though – autumn, and the lead up to Christmas, are my favourite times of the year. I love the cold air and crisp leaves underfoot, the sparkle of lights and Christmas songs, good food and warm jumpers, Halloween treats and Bonfire night.

Wishing you all a good week, wherever you are! 🙂

xx

 

 

A Small Update

Life has been extremely busy of late. Part of it has been getting back into the routine of work and school and extracurricular activities, part of it has been all the writing I’m trying to cram in to every spare moment.

For I am writing a LOT at the moment. Funny, the busier we get the more we seem to get done. They do say if you want something done, give it to a busy person and so it seems to be the case here.

Under Stone, Ambeth book four, is back out for a final read before publishing. Silver and Black, my vampire novel, is almost complete (though I may need a new name now that Marvel has greenlighted a superhero film with the same name). Another story, tentatively titled The Grove, has been demanding to be written, and I also have some editing underway, going back to an older story and revisiting the language.

A Thousand Rooms has been chosen as a feature book for September/October on Chick Lit Central, which is a huge thrill, and we’re giving away a signed copy to celebrate! Click here to visit the site and enter the comp.

But this weekend I’ll be doing something completely different. This morning I’m heading up to Scotland, to join Sue and Stuart and Steve, as well as the rest of the companions, for a Silent Eye weekend. I did one last year – you can read about it here – and it was a completely profound experience.

This time we’ll be wandering the stones with Running Elk, who knows the area well. I’m looking forward to the change in pace (though I’m praying for reasonable weather), and the chance to see somewhere new. I’ll be back Sunday and will blog about the experience, as I’m sure it will be quite something!

Happy weekend, everyone 🙂


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.